Sunday, December 30, 2007

New efficient bulb sees the light

Perhaps the days of currently used "humble light-bulb" will go the ways of dodo. Glasgow University scientists along with scientists from the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde, found a cheaper and efficient way of "making microscopic holes in the surface of LEDs to increase the level of light they give off.

This is a process known as nano-imprint lithography.

Dr Faiz Rahman, who is leading the project, said: "As yet, LEDs have not been introduced as the standard lighting in homes because the process of making the holes is very time consuming and expensive.

"However, we believe we have found a way of imprinting the holes into billions of LEDs at a far greater speed, but at a much lower cost."

Link:
New efficient bulb sees the light

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's Assassination: A Tragedy Born of Military Despotism and Anarchy

Tariq Ali says, "It is assumed that the killers were jihadi fanatics. This may well be true, but were they acting on their own?" -- would it ever be known who were behind these fanatics who killed Benazir Bhutto? Or would it be like another "lone gunman" theory?

Another article in The Guardian observes aptly, "Even if a militant group did dispatch the bomber, were they operating alone or as pawns of more powerful figures? Even today, the one other infamous assassination in Pakistan's history, the killing of Zia in August 1988, remains the unsolved subject of many a conspiracy theory." Why call it "conspiracy theory" when even the "non-conspiracy" theory couldn't solve similar other murders, assassinations of political leaders and even mass murders of innocent civilians either remain unsolved or white-washed "investigation" staged by stooges. This morning, a political leader was assassinated in Pakistan, but the patterns of these killings are eerily familiar.

From The Economist the following salient points, though considered allegations, perhaps retain the key: "Miss Bhutto’s killer is alleged to have approached to within 20 yards of her car, carrying a gun, dressed in a police uniform. At the least, such a lapse in the security afforded to Mr Musharraf and his supporters would be unimaginable."

In all the outside appearance, Benazir's assassination means an "obstacle" removed for Musharraf, but did it really? The Washington Post article says, "Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."

Author Ahmed Rashid observes, "Bhutto was killed leaving a political rally in Rawalpindi, just two miles from where her father, prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by another military dictator 30 years ago. The tragedy of the Bhutto family -- her brothers also were killed, one poisoned, one shot, and her husband spent seven years in prison -- has become part of the saga and struggle by Pakistanis to create a viable democratic, modern state."

Teresita C. Schaffer draws attention to "tragedy" of Pakistani political leadership, "the tragedy of Pakistan is that the PPP and other major parties are family fiefdoms, built on personal loyalty, with no record of developing new leaders or permitting opposition within the ranks. This structure strengthens the tendency to view political office as a possession. Corruption and unaccountability are natural byproducts. Talented second-tier party members had no prospect of emerging from Bhutto's shadow."

Columnist David Ignatius comments on political engineering, "Bhutto's death is a brutal demonstration of the difficulty for outsiders in understanding -- let alone tinkering with -- a country such as Pakistan. The Bush administration attempted a bit of political engineering when it tried to broker an alliance between Musharraf and Bhutto and sought to position her as the country's next prime minister. Yesterday's events were a reminder that global politics is not Prospero's island, where we can conjure up the outcomes we want. In places such as Pakistan, where we can't be sure where events are heading, the wisest course for the United States is the cautious one of trying to identify and protect American interests. Pakistanis will decide how and when their country makes its accommodation with the modern world.

New York Times' editorial describes Benazir and her father in contemporary Pakistani political context, "Ms. Bhutto and her father and political mentor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were democratic, but imperfect political leaders — imperious, indifferent to human rights and, in her case, tainted by serious charges of corruption. The father was deposed by a military coup and then hanged. The daughter was twice elected and twice deposed. But both had one undeniable asset: electoral legitimacy — legitimacy that the generals and the Islamic extremists could only seek to destroy or, in Mr. Musharraf’s case, hope to borrow."

The Independent comments on Musharraf's desperation, "These will be perilous days for Pakistan. The return to civilian rule and the parliamentary elections, now less than two weeks away, are both surely threatened. Mr Musharraf's position is as shaky as it has been since he seized power. His call for calm "so that the nefarious designs of terrorists can be defeated" smacked of desperation, the national security card ever the last resort of the weak leader. And even if, as is probable, he had no part whatever in her death, there will be many among her supporters who will believe he did."

Pakistan is a place where conspiracies are played out too often, writes Andrew Buncombe in The Independent, "Should some official version of events be provided by the government, few in Pakistan will believe it. In a country which has experienced military coups, the suspicious death of one of its military leaders and the execution of another president and in which both the military and the shadowy intelligence services retain the dominant influence, people will be ready to believe any manner of fanciful ideas about who was behind Ms Bhutto's death. Pakistan is, after all, the place where conspiracies are played out all too often."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Infinity

Another year nearing its end. 2007 on earth, the lives of many, happiness and sorrow, greed and stupendous philanthropy, the good and the bad, and the middle who are no where in the intensive political spectrum of polarized cacophony. Another year gone by. Some wishes unfulfilled, more memorable moments deposited in memory banks, and the departed, suddenly mortality's crude appearance, literally in a heartbeat, reminding the fragility of everything we see, feel and appreciate. Life is indeed finite, perhaps too short for many, even the centurian may tell you the same.

Regardless of which faith, religion or non-religion one may have, or desperately trying to clinging to that soothing feeling of definiteness, the feeling of purpose, and destination, though surrounding are the irrefutable facts of scientific paradigm where faithfuls' yearning and prayer evaporate from simmering empirical evidential logic.

Perhaps this is the one life to live. Or perhaps infinite many to live after this finite one. But in this world, in this time, what we have, every moments, is precious, not in economic scale, but in the scale of infinite dreams.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

NYC hails Muslim 'Good Samaritan'

Words are abound that in the time of absolute distress a man's real character and his integrity or lack of integrity comes out like a shining light or a shadow of darkness. Hassan Askari, a Muslim student from Bangladesh origin put his own life at stake fighting for three Jewish folks whom he didn't know before. "His intervention left him with a possible broken nose, a stitched lip, bruises and two black eyes."

Unlike the other hate spewing extremists, like most other peace loving human being, Askari stepped forward in the midst of violent assault when others in that crowded train in New York looked the other way while three Jewish boys were assaulted with anti-semitic taunts, and physical abuses. For Askari, looking other way was not an option, since, "I felt I could not just stand there and watch these people being beaten up without doing anything to help. I believe we are all members of one family, and my religion teaches me always to come to the aid of my fellow man in distress."

While describing Askari's Good Samaritan action, Marc Scheier, who is a Jewish rabbis said, "Mr Askari - like the Good Samaritan - was the only person brave enough to intervene. The symbolism of his action at Christmas time is striking - a foreign Muslim coming to the aid of three Jews in an act of kindness and cooperation. People often forget that Judaism and Islam aren't so far apart as the radicals from both sides would have us believe. We are both Abrahamic religions and in many respects share a common faith."

The same is true for another great Abrahamic religion, Christianity, where Jesus' philosophy was based on love, not vengeance. If one explores non-Abrahamic religions, in their true essence, like Hinduism, Buddhism and other great religions, even people who may not subscribe to any organized religion or prescribed deities, the vibrant pulse of humanity drum rolls in every beat from red purplish heart. Occasional heroism like Askari's valor uplifts the sound of beats to its niche, even if only momentarily.

Link to BBC:
NYC hails Muslim 'Good Samaritan'

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Subzero Thrill - a Poem

Subzero Thrill

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
December 4, 2007


Open your eyes
slowly, lift two lids
covering restless pupils

What you can see
right there
out in the cold
in fragmented snow
while the northernly wind
slices through woolly jackets
and chilled bones
a shadow from the past
lurking in frosty joy
thrilled for subzero flakes
as if cold is gold
hunting in glorious pits.

Shrinking days recedes
from elongated nights
tipping helter-skelter
a man in fright


Wintry Snow - a Poem

Wintry Snow - a Poem

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
November 30, 2007


As far as one can see
wintry snow and wind gusty
swirling granulated rocks
light, flimsy, mashed blocks
of miserable coldness
What happened to sun
the freshness?

Clumsy roads like slippery queen
tightened lips, moist and clean
holding back unknown mystery
from the world of screaming feisty


Thursday, November 08, 2007

War on Cancer - Part One

Two articles recently published in The Washington Post and AlterNet provide a good overview of current status on "war on cancer", a trendy catchy term of our time, but what a let down for the global populace is observed when in depth scrutinizing is in place, deciphering murky details from colorful advertising billboards.

Significant progresses against cancer indeed have been made through more concerted efforts by governments, increased public awareness and tremendous achievements in scientific world. However, trends point to uncharted territory that haven't been taken into account due to preserving commercial interests.

Modernity has given us technological wonders, practical usefulness of cellphones, computers, ease of traveling to distant places by abundant automobiles and planes, comfort feeling at home, seating in a velvety couch, our feet rested on thick soothing carpet. For many, food is plenty, anything can be bought from super, giant grocery stores, flashy clothes can be bought even from the comfort of a home just clicking mouse buttons surfing internet sites.

Lest we get too comfortable from these "modernity", the rise of toxic chemicals in our body is alarming. Hereditary does play role in cancer, but greater roles are played by how one lives one's life, what one eats, what good or bad habits one possess, these all play much greater roles in case of our cells go wild, too free radical.

Misconceptions is abound when it comes to cancer. The wide "gap between the actual causes of cancer and popular belief is even greater when considering pollution-related causes." Dr. Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras in their book "Food that Fight Cancer" observe: "In general, the risk factors that are difficult to control - those of hereditary, environmental, or viral origin -- are responsible for about 30% of all cancers. Conversely, many factors directly related to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, dietary habits as well as the immoderate use of alcohol and stupefiers, are the direct cause of the onset of about 70% of all cancers!"

..............To be Continued in Part Two

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Keith Olbermann's Stunning Video on Waterboarding

Olbermann's comment in this latest news video is sharp, to the point, and courageous, showing what other "mainstream" journalists should be doing to keep intact their integrity.

Video Link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arWJ358tZgU

Monday, November 05, 2007

Harper's Ouija Board Environmentalism

"Harper stands up and waffles on about trying to call for 50 per cent emissions reductions. Where on earth is he getting those numbers from?" Weaver asked. "They're certainly not coming from Canadian scientists. Maybe it's coming from a Ouija board or something. But nobody knows where it's coming from.
The above quotation came from Dr. Andrew Weaver who is a part of a team of international experts in climate that won Nobel Prize in Peace this year. Most reputable scientists from around the world have been warning the world and its "energetic" leaders about the hastening pace of global warning which is beyond the scientific expectations of the past, and urged more urgent research to be immediately undertaken so that more practical recommendations could be turned into universal policies in the global arena, but all they are getting is stupefying avoidance, and even cutting down of their essential research is getting less attention from "in-bedded" global media.

An engaging article link:
Nobel scientists deliver stinging criticism of federal government

Mush, Name Sake and Bubble Dome

Some calls him Mush, as if to rhyme his name with Bush. Pakistan's military dictator Musharraf have other similarities with his rhymed name sake. He is also "waging war on terror", by incarcerating progressives, human rights activists and the lawyers and justices from the low to highest levels of courts. Human rights activist Asma Jahangir writes, "Ironically the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular- minded people while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires."

His paid goons slapping the front and back sides of head of "prisoners" being taken away in long blue police vans. But unlike Bush who has at least so far kept the public demonstration of adherence to democracy, however flimsy that may be in reality, Mush has brazenly abandoned his long fusing facade of respecting democracy or the constitution of his land. He has unleashed, once again, his military prowess on any dissenters who had ever dared to speak against his camouflaged autocratic rule.

When Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry confronted Musharraf's dictatorial government regarding “disappeared prisoners, harassment of women and rushed privatisations", Mush and his autocrat buddies had branded him as Taliban sympathizers. They invoked the age old and fearsome words of "terrorism" and "terrorists" and mashed them all in Chief Justices' defiant but lawful dissents. Convenience of mixing apples and oranges for the frenzied world was abundant while in reality Pakistan's Intelligence Service have and had deep involvements of creating and maintaining the Taliban menace, in hyper myth and absolute nuisance.

Only time will tell if Mush has really lost his "marbles" this time around. As long as he gets repeated adoring patting from his secret and open admirers like his name sake and high stake "intelligence collaborators" from near and far, Mush will surely feel uplifted and daring, even while the certainty of a pending democratic revolution gathers momentum just outside his bubble dome.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Oil - Super-Spiked?

Goldman Sachs is predicting $80 a barrel by April 2008, forecasting a better supply and lesser demand for oil. Like them, some in the financial sector thinks that the current high price of oil is already taking a toll on motorists' "thirst" for more oil, further predicting that if the price of oil goes higher before April 2008 in this coming winter, the demand for "spiked" oil will be lower.

Isn't it like wishful thinking? The rise of demand from China, India and other economically energetic nations will surely put more pressure on world's current oil supply, though however "optimistic" OPEC may seem in the front page of global news. Yes, there will be new oil field discoveries, that will surely help, but increasing demand is out-stripping supply, and will do so in foreseeable years, unless, demands can be cut down by supplying alternative energy in the market, and also putting more energy efficient vehicles on the road.

It may seem "super-spiked" for the "gurus" of financiers, and damage-control in spins perhaps in active motion, but the facts of a dwindling fossil fuel doesn't change.

Ending energy poverty

Margo Thorning's article in The Baltimore Sun provides some grim statistics on the lack of modern energy accessibilities for a vast segment of our world population.
Today, 2.5 billion people use wood, charcoal, agricultural waste and animal dung to meet most of their daily energy needs for cooking and heating. In many countries, these resources account for more than 90 percent of total household energy consumption. About 1.3 million people - mostly women and children - die prematurely every year because of exposure to indoor air pollution from burning biomass for fuel.
The writer correctly observes that "Reducing the extreme energy poverty of the world's poor will take a combination of technology transfer and public-private partnerships between wealthy and less-developed nations."

Read the full article from the following link:
Ending energy poverty
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.energypoor01nov01,0,2478123.story

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Human Rights in "Great" Saudi and "Great" Britain

In the afternoon BBC was broadcasting Saudi King Abdullah with Queen Elizabeth II, exchanging their speeches in languages of Arabic and English in a royal banquets, where the glitters of riches from shiny palace decor had matchings of both monarchs' seemingly spotless groomed hair. After their pleasantry filled speeches, camera showed the king and the queen, briefly, in conversations with the help of their interpreters. One may wonder, what were they talking about? When the cameras are off, public views are restricted, what goes through the lips and tongues of royalties? Did they exchange notes on their respective nations' human rights' abuses?

Saudi Arabia is a nation, where human rights violation and discriminations reported to be pervasive. In the name of protecting the religion, self appointed for being keeper of the "keys" of "holy" places, Saudi Arabia's records in keeping women subjugated by denying the very basic rights of movement, placing severe restrictions in women's freedom, even like acquiring drivers license is not allowed. Amnesty International reported widespread domestic violences against women that go unnoticed and unpunished.

Like many other nations, in the name of "war against terror", any kind of dissents against the monarchs' undemocratic, dictatorial rules are considered treasonous, and the current world paranoia has given it more boldness in detaining dissenters, labeling them as "terror suspects", and carrying out swift punishments, either made them rot in torturous prisons or beheading in merciless swing of a sword. Here is an excerpt from Robert Fisk's article in The Independent describing the cruelties of Saudi government sponsored beheading of their "criminals":
"The ritual of chopping off heads was graphically described by an Irish witness to a triple execution in Jeddah in 1997. "Standing to the left of the first prisoner, and a little behind him, the executioner focused on his quarry ... I watched as the sword was being drawn back with the right hand. A one-handed back swing of a golf club came to mind ... the down-swing begins ... the blade met the neck and cut through it like ... a heavy cleaver cutting through a melon ... a crisp moist smack. The head fell and rolled a little. The torso slumped neatly. I see now why they tied wrists to feet ... the brain had no time to tell the heart to stop, and the final beat bumped a gush of blood out of the headless torso on to the plinth"
Great Britain's human rights record is not in tip top shape either. Amnesty International's 2007 report on this "great" nation repeated its earlier concerns from previous years reports, saying: "The government continued to erode fundamental human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, including by persisting with attempts to undermine the ban on torture at home and abroad, and by seeking to enact legislation inconsistent with fundamental human rights. Measures taken by the authorities with the stated aim of countering terrorism led to serious human rights violations, and concern was widespread about the impact of these measures on Muslims and other minority communities."

In High places, among the kings, queens, prince, princess, political leaders, "commander-in-chief", etc., religion is simply a tool, for the control of their "subjects", giving the wider public a feeling of patriotism, nationalistic zeal and blood cuddled fervors, all neatly designed and conveniently chunky doses delivered for public make-belief. When these "great" leaders meet, so publicly, like the king and queen, dictators and presidents, in the wind nature sends its warnings, perhaps something devious, clever, shrewed and crafty ploys in motion. In man made or natural disasters, there are those profit opportunity seekers, for whom democracy is simply nuisance, and for whom progressing their shrouded absolutist agendas amidst artificially created crisis is considered a boon.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conscience and Eugenics

What is the name of the disease that evaporates conscience from human mind? Where is that rumbling hyena, with its blood soaked teeth, scavenging the flesh from carrions, mingling in a disciplined pack of brethren, in ecstatic delight from the pure joy of ripping last bits of life out of a weaker prey? Law of jungle, animal's basest instincts are in shrouded display from pioneer scientists, in measured words of reductionism, propelling the age old prejudiced notions of inferiority of fellow human beings from distant places, or perhaps having not so lighter color of skin. Who are we to judge the make up of next generations of our world? What determines the criteria for the selection of "superior genes"? Would the "extreme social application of genetics" be ever be "fair" and non-predatory like the howling hyenas? Would there be expendables, undesirables be classified and sorted out for the sole dictates of power elites?

Scientists with enormous impacts from their life long contributions to science and for the overall progress of our world and its inhabitants are not out of this world. Like the rest of world populace, they are within the boundary of social pressure, deep inherent prejudices from which some of whom never able to escape. Higher education does presume to "enlighten" human beings with repeated and deep introspections on various aspects of our life and surrounding visible and invisible environment. Sometimes, for reasons that need further explorations, "higher education" fails its goal of enlightening educators and fellow scientists, similar to various ancient scriptures' failure to bring ancient wisdoms in the forms of understandable metaphors for the unity, coherence and stability of our human family.

Is it our inherent nature to be vicious and being predatory? Can the human populace differentiate itself from the brute law of jungle, from hyenas ripping apart skeletal carrions? Is it necessary to be ego thumping maniac?

Perhaps the answer lies in the deepest corner of our still misunderstood codes of genetics. In flaring neurons, cellular machineries, mitochondrial wall, or perhaps something still yet to be discovered and understood.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Making Globalization Work: Stiglitz Lecture

Joseph Stiglitz won Nobel Prize in economics a few years back. The following link has his lectures delivered in Chennai in India earlier this year, in mp3 file format, courtesy of The Hindu newspaper from India.

Link:
Stiglitz lecture

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scientists a step closer to steering hurricanes

Steering hurricane from one city to another city, or to a neighboring nation is getting more promising in computer simulations, even a small scale weather system will be employed for further experiment. The moral and ethical questions remain though: "If a hurricane were coming towards Miami with the potential to cause damage and kill people, and we diverted it, another town or village hit by it would sue us. They'll say the hurricane is no longer an act of God, but that we caused it."

Here is a brief description of how hurricane forms:
Hurricanes form when air warmed over the ocean rises to meet the cool upper atmosphere. The heat turns to kinetic energy, producing a spiral of wind and rain. The greater the temperature differences between top and bottom, and the narrower the eye of the hurricane, the faster it blows.
One solution for steering hurricane would use aircraft to drop "soot into the near-freezing cloud at the top of a hurricane, causing it to warm up and so reduce wind speeds. Computer simulations of the forces at work in the most violent storms have shown that even small changes can affect their paths – enabling them to be diverted from major cities."

Another solution by scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
"had simulated the effect of sowing clouds with microscopic dust to cool the hurricane's base, also weakening it. The dust would attract water but would form droplets too small to fall as rain. Instead, they would rise and evaporate, cooling hot air at the hurricane base. In findings presented at a conference in Trieste, Italy, the team led by Daniel Rosenfeld demonstrated that dust dropped into the lower part of Hurricane Katrina would have reduced wind speeds and diverted its course."

The potential from these research could led to more beneficial applications, perhaps, rather than steering to a neighboring cities or town or to another nation, may be a weakened storm could be pushed back toward ocean while gradually lessening its strength, thus reducing its damaging impacts on humanity.

Controlling storms, hurricanes and other natural phenomenon should be closely monitored by neutral international agencies like United Nations, so that only the universal benevolences could be derived from these exciting progresses in science, not to be used for any kind of warfare.

Link:
Scientists a step closer to steering hurricanes

Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest

Who to believe?

According to a spokesman UK's Department of Business and Enterprise "Over the next few years global oil production and refining capacity is expected to increase faster than demand. The world's oil resources are sufficient to sustain economic growth for the foreseeable future."

In contrast to above "all good" scenario, "The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected. The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel."

What is the outcomes if oil supply indeed cannot catch up with the grown energy demands?
"Anticipated supply shortages could lead easily to disturbing scenes of mass unrest as witnessed in Burma this month. For government, industry and the wider public, just muddling through is not an option any more as this situation could spin out of control and turn into a complete meltdown of society."

Mr Schindler comes to a similar conclusion. "The world is at the beginning of a structural change of its economic system. This change will be triggered by declining fossil fuel supplies and will influence almost all aspects of our daily life."

Jeremy Leggett, one of Britain's leading environmentalists and the author of Half Gone, a book about "peak oil" - defined as the moment when maximum production is reached, said that both the UK government and the energy industry were in "institutionalised denial" and that action should have been taken sooner."

Link:
Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Something new under the sun

An interesting article from The Economist and an interview with Vijay Vaitheeswaran argue that "Innovation is becoming both more accessible and more global. This is good news because its democratisation releases the untapped ingenuity of people everywhere and that could help solve some of the world's weightiest problems."

When we think about "Innovators", automatically we perceive them as long white lab coat wearing scientist in a spotless laboratory, most likely funded by either government or rich companies. However, according to Vijay Vaitheeswaran "Now the centrally planned approach is giving way to the more democratic, even joyously anarchic, new model of innovation. Clever ideas have always been everywhere, of course, but companies were often too closed to pick them up. The move to an open approach to innovation is far more promising."

Though more "democratized" innovations mean more fierce competition around the world, "it is not necessarily a zero sum game. On the contrary, because the well of human ingenuity is bottomless, innovation strategies that tap into hitherto neglected intellectual capital and connect it better with financial capital can help both rich and poor countries prosper. That is starting to happen in the developing world."

Pressuring the Generals

All the collective sanctions by U.N., United States, European Union may not put enough pressure on Burmese military junta who are still flexing their muscles and brandishing guns and bayonets on unarmed Burmese civilians and monks who have dared to protest against their autocrats. Without Chinese and Indian full hearted support behind the international communities' combined efforts, no diplomatic efforts have the possibility of success.

Both China and India are Burma's major trading partners, thus surely these both nations have enormous leverage on Burmese junta and elites. Here is an excerpt from The Hindu's today's editorial:
"There can be little question that as a leading democracy India must join the international community in its efforts to pressure the Yangon regime to move urgently towards democracy and national reconciliation. While practising good neighbourliness, and taking care to ensure that its actions do not constitute an unwarranted interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs, India must not hesitate to use its growing leverage unambiguously on the side of democracy. In the larger global context, India must throw all its weight behind the U.N. good offices endeavour and consult closely with Asean, China, and the western powers to see how best to make it succeed against the odds."

Afraid of the Dalai Lama?

Why is China so afraid of Dalai Lama? This frail looking old man whose charming smile and humorous observations on nature, spirituality and peace have inspired millions many, still causes kind of a frenzied chaotic reaction from China whenever this old man comes to the forefront of world news. Dalai Lama's receiving of Congressional Medal of Honor from U.S. Government has sparked similar knee jerk comments filled with fumes from Chinese one party communist leaders. Why is China so afraid of Dailai Lama? Here are a few points that may enlighten this subject on Tibet, the repressed land that China had forcefully occupied many years ago:
"Why is the mighty People's Republic of China so petrified of this 72-year-old Buddhist monk? True, the Dalai Lama is no ordinary scholar and teacher; he is the living symbol of the Buddhist faith. It seems that Beijing's cadres fear his moral authority and do not want the international community to examine their record in Tibet, because they have a lot to hide.

It has been 48 years since the Dalai Lama eluded capture by the People's Liberation Army and escaped to India, whereupon Chairman Mao Zedong began to plunder Tibet's wealth and murdered more than 1 million of its people. In the mid-1990s, the Chinese politburo implemented the "Strike Hard Campaign" that declared Buddhism "a disease to be eradicated." News of major protests in Tibet has not been widely disseminated in recent years, and now the survival of Tibetan civilization has reached a tipping point. In 2000, China launched a vast infrastructure campaign called "Opening and Development of the Western Regions" and embarked on a new phase of subjugation and control. Construction of rail and road links to Tibet, such as the Qingzang railway that opened last year, has accelerated Beijing's surveillance of Tibetans and has advanced the Sinofication of the Himalayan and Turkic peoples who inhabit China's western territories.

Exploiting Tibet's resources for the mainland's industrial base is a strategic and economic priority for China's government, which suppresses manifestations of Tibetan identity or nationalism with blunt force."
There may be other reasons beside the seemingly "obvious" reason of suppression of Tibetan identity.
"China is accustomed to reacting with brutality when its supremacy is threatened, but now the state is imperiled by forces that neither Maoist thought nor martial law can control. Rapid growth has caused calamitous environmental damage that could lead to food shortages and unhygienic living and working conditions, which in turn could lead to epidemics and, eventually, chaos. China's 1.3 billion people need solutions, not ordinances dictated by the Communist Party's Central Committee. But Beijing, unwilling or unable to relinquish one-party rule, clings to an obsolete worldview that demonizes the Dalai Lama instead of engaging the statesman in a meaningful dialogue on Tibet and China's future."
Like its oligarch dominated "democracy" in other parts of our world, Chinese communist dictators exploit Dalai Lama controversy so that their increasingly restless populace can be galvanized for a neatly crafted nationalistic cause. Sometimes, "God" and "God's man" can prove to be handy tool for even the atheistic creed.

Link:
Afraid of the Dalai Lama?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Zoellick: Globalization Must Benefit the World’s Poor

For many, Globalization provides huge opportunities, creating staggering wealth in places where it was unimaginable in the past. "Yet exclusion, grinding poverty, and environmental damage create dangers. The ones that suffer most are those who have the least to start with – indigenous peoples, women in developing countries, the rural poor, Africans, and their children.” These words were uttered by the current World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.

A few excerpts:

In discussing how the World Bank Group can support developing countries, Zoellick pointed out: "It is the purpose of the World Bank Group to assist countries to help themselves by catalyzing the capital and policies through a mix of ideas and experience, development of private market opportunities, and support for good governance and anti-corruption -- spurred by our financial resources.”

“It is the purpose of the Bank Group to advance ideas about international projects and agreements on trade, finance, health, poverty, education, and climate change so that they can benefit all, especially the poor seeking new opportunities.”

“Inclusive globalization is also a matter of self-interest. Poverty breeds instability, disease and devastation of common resources and the environment,” he said.

Zoellick said the Bank Group should be expanding the frontiers of thinking about policy and markets and pioneering new possibilities.

In laying out his vision for the World Bank Group, Mr. Zoellick suggested six strategic themes:

Helping to overcome poverty and spur sustainable growth in the poorest countries, especially in Africa.

1. Addressing the special challenges of states coming out of conflict.
2. Developing a competitive menu of “development solutions” for middle income countries, involving customized services as well as finance.
3. Playing a more active role with regional and global “public goods” on issues crossing national borders, including climate change, HIV/Aids, malaria, and aid for trade.
4. Supporting those advancing development and opportunity in the Arab world.
5. Fostering a “knowledge and learning” agenda across the World Bank Group to support its role as a “brain trust” of applied experience.

Zoellick said the Bank was also strengthening its work with countries on good governance and anticorruption, the foundation to improving development.

To help the poorest countries, Zoellick announced the World Bank Group was leading the way by pledging $3.5 billion of its own resources to the International Development Association (IDA), which provides grants and interest free loans for the 81 poorest countries. This is more than double the $1.5 billion the Bank Group pledged to the prior IDA replenishment in 2005.
World Bank alone cannot spur all the benefits for the world's poorest. Zoellick correctly "challenged the world's developed countries to follow the Bank’s lead and increase their support for the world's poorest people, especially in Africa and South and East Asia."

Link:
Zoellick: Globalization Must Benefit the World’s Poor

Swiss Votes to Use 'Unbreakable' Code

Even in "most developed" nations, lower voter turn out plays a significant role in not so representative democracy. Especially, the working class, who is tied with work during the voting hours miss out in abundance, as does other segments of societies. Switzerland "will use quantum technology to encrypt election results as they are sent to the capital on Oct. 21", which is "A new "unbreakable" encryption method will be keep votes safe for citizens in the Swiss canton (state) of Geneva in the country's upcoming national elections."

Perhaps, in the next few years, citizens will be able to vote at the comfort of their homes, and even during the busy work days. If this new "unbreakable" cryptography technology holds true for voting machines and can be adapted by other nations, then, democracy will get a boost, since it will help "democratic nation" be represented by everyone, even by the marginalized ones.

Link:
Swiss Votes to Use 'Unbreakable' Code

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Peace and Global Warming

Critics raises question: what Nobel Peace prize has commonality with Global Warming? The answer from Nobel committee was profound:
"climate change, if unchecked, could unleash massive migrations, violent competitions for resources and, ultimately, threaten the “security of mankind.”"
Al Gore's sharing the Nobel Peace prize with United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be seen by the "skeptics" as the slap on Mr. Bush's face, but, the clear and present danger from global warming, its far reaching disastrous impacts for the entire globe is above and beyond the mere slap on petty science deniers.

Mr. Bush's last seven years have seen the "questioning the science of global warming and undermining efforts to do anything substantive about it. His recent efforts to demonstrate leadership -- from finally recognizing global warming as real to hosting a climate summit with the major emitters of greenhouse gases -- are undermined by his insistence that nations pursue voluntary "aspirational goals" to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This is not the kind of leadership the world is looking for."

What the world is looking for is someone who is not a fear-monger for fictitiously created enemies for the reason of political expediencies. Al Gore like his predecessor Jimmy Carter, in more likelihood, is in a grandiose zenith of their career, from which urgent and practical solutions to the real threats that our world is facing may be coordinated and inspired.

All the talks on media on Gore's possible return to Presidential politics was termed by Bob Herbert of New York Times as: "like asking someone who’s recovered from a heart attack if he plans to resume smoking", considering that Gore "knows better than anyone else how toxic and downright idiotic presidential politics has become."

Here is a quote from Bob Herbert's today's article:
Mr. Gore knows the system is in trouble, and not just because of the way he lost in 2000. The last time I spoke to him, a few months ago, he said: “Having served in the White House with the Gingrich Congress, and having watched the best of intentions so often turned into small changes ballyhooed as revolutionary, sometimes having no lasting mark, I really do believe that fixing the dynamic of democracy is an urgent task.”
Gore and Carter have already transcended from politics' shadowy land into broader, more intellectually honest arena of global proportionality (though there are skeptics), where their world wide name and fame recognitions can do helluva good for the distressed many.

Immigrants and Laureates

A few welcoming facts and alarming trends from Washington Post:

Foreign-born researchers are common in the U.S. academic and scientific communities. In fact, more than a third of American Nobel laureates in the sciences over the last 15 years were born outside the U.S. These scientists are conducting research with extraordinary promise for improving lives, as well as great potential to produce commercialized therapies and technologies that drive U.S. innovation and economic growth.

The U.S. should welcome these highly skilled researchers and innovators. Unfortunately, recent trends in immigration policy are making it more difficult for foreign-born scientists and engineers to put their skills to work in this country -- and that could have profoundly negative implications for the U.S. economy.

Link:
Immigrants and Laureates

Thursday, October 11, 2007

King Anand


Viswanathan Anand has become the undisputed World Champions in chess. He had won it once before seven years ago, and his successes in chess for the past two decades is stunning. Unlike other ego shouting champions and challengers of the past, Anand takes pride in his gentle manner and humility.
"What makes Anand such a lovable champion is his gracious demeanour. In triumph, he is quick to remember those who offered him a helping hand on the way. Even in adversity, Anand maintains grace and dignity. He has dealt with fans and critics with equal attention. Though at the top of the chess world, Anand remains grounded. Indeed, after a long time, chess has a worthy “undisputed champion” of the world.
Link to article:
http://www.flonnet.com/stories/20071019508813200.htm

No job for life



This rings bell for many, including the humble me. Very few people these days can boast holding the same job for their entire life. The Economist's chart on the right shows the average job tenure country by country basis.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Striking accomplishment for Capecchi

The prize is a particularly striking accomplishment for Capecchi (pronounced kuh-PEK'-ee). A native of Italy, he was separated from his mother, a poet, at age 3 when the Gestapo took her to the Dachau concentration camp as a political prisoner in 1941. He spent a year with a peasant family, until the money she'd left for his care ran out.

At age 4, "I started wandering the streets," he recalled Monday. For about four years, he lived on the streets or in orphanages, and he ended up in a hospital with malnutrition.

Dachau was liberated in 1945 and his mother survived.

"Then she set out to find me," searching through hospital records. "I was in a hospital and when they keep you in a hospital, they didn't want you to run around. They took your clothes away. She came and bought me an outfit."

She showed up on Capecchi's 9th birthday. Soon thereafter, "we were on a boat to America ... I literally expected roads to be paved with gold. What I found was, it was a land of opportunity," he said.

In the United States, he went to school for the first time, starting in third grade despite not knowing English.

Mario R. Capecchi is awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine this year along with two other scientists. Here is an excerpt from Nobel Foundations Press Release on this occasion:

"This year's Nobel Laureates have made a series of ground-breaking discoveries concerning embryonic stem cells and DNA recombination in mammals. Their discoveries led to the creation of an immensely powerful technology referred to as gene targeting in mice. It is now being applied to virtually all areas of biomedicine – from basic research to the development of new therapies.

Gene targeting is often used to inactivate single genes. Such gene "knockout" experiments have elucidated the roles of numerous genes in embryonic development, adult physiology, aging and disease. To date, more than ten thousand mouse genes (approximately half of the genes in the mammalian genome) have been knocked out. Ongoing international efforts will make "knockout mice" for all genes available within the near future.

With gene targeting it is now possible to produce almost any type of DNA modification in the mouse genome, allowing scientists to establish the roles of individual genes in health and disease. Gene targeting has already produced more than five hundred different mouse models of human disorders, including cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases, diabetes and cancer."

Links:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/08/AR2007100800252.html

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/press.html

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Jaroslav Seifert - A Wreath of Sonnets

I don't hear his name in poetic world. But not too long ago, in 1984 he was awarded Nobel prize in literature for his "work which, 'endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness, provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man.''

From Wikipedia:
"Seifert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984. Due to bad health, he was not present at the award's ceremony, and so his daughter received the Nobel Prize in his name (Some sources say, that the government didn't let him go accept the Prize). Even though it was a matter of great importance, there was only a brief remark on the award in the state-controlled media. He died in 1986 and was buried at the municipal cemetery in Kralupy nad Vltavou. His burial was marked by a high presence of secret police, who tried to suppress any hint of dissent on the part of mourners."
From Nobelprize.org site here are a few links on Jarslav Seifert:

Biography
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1984/seifert-bio.html

Jarslav Seifert's Nobel Lecture
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1984/seifert-lecture.html

The New York Times article on his win
http://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/12/books/84nobel.html

A few of his translated sonnets that could be found in the net are linked below:

Link:
Jaroslav Seifert - A Wreath of Sonnets

New Telomere Discovery Could Help Explain Why Cancer Cells Never Stop Dividing

A promising discovery it seems. If it holds true on further verification by the scientific communities, it can very well open new scope in the fight against all pervasive cancer.

A few excerpt from this article given below:

"Inside the cell nucleus, all our genetic information is located on twisted, double stranded molecules of DNA which are packaged into chromosomes. At the end of these chromosomes are telomeres, zones of repeated chains of DNA that are often compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosomes from fraying, and thus genetic information from getting scrambled when cells divide.

The telomere is like a cellular clock, because every time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. After a cell has grown and divided a few dozen times, the telomeres turn on an alarm system that prevents further division. If this clock doesn't function right, cells either end up with damaged chromosomes or they become "immortal" and continue dividing endlessly -- either way it's bad news and leads to cancer or disease. Understanding how telomeres function, and how this function can potentially be manipulated, is thus extremely important."

Link:
New Telomere Discovery Could Help Explain Why Cancer Cells Never Stop Dividing

Chill out. - Stop Fighting over Global Warming

Bjorn Lomborg has many dissenters. After his publication of Skeptical Environmentalist, a few of his fellow Danish scientists accused him for "scientific dishonesty". Here is an excerpt from the ruling on that case cited by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty:
"Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. ...In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."
Lomborg's controversial book's main thesis was that "many of the most-publicized claims and predictions of environmentalists are exaggerated." For which "outrageous" claims, he got rebuked by his fellow scientists, branding him unethical for his "deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions" in The Skeptical Environmentalist. Like his accusing dissenters, Bjorn Lomborg has his admirers too. Read the following excerpt from Wikipedia entry on Lomborg:
"A Dutch think tank, HAN, Heidelberg Appeal the Netherlands, published a report in which they claimed 25 out of 27 accusations against Lomborg to be unsubstantiated or not to the point.[7] A group of scientists with relation to this think tank also published an article in 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics,[8] in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused their authority to suppress Lomborg."
The debates amongst the various "sides" of Global Warming are fierce, each labeling the other side in basest term, holding their own claims to be true. While our world is surely warming up, glaciers are indeed melting away, smogs from pollution are infecting our breathing air, and fossil fuel's grip on world economy and its machineries are so strong that even costly warfares are taken into affirmative consideration in any steps to dominate world's most coveted resources. Amidst these sore points, top notch scientists are in brawl with each other on global warming. Some say that corporate interests play a huge role in paying the "scientists" and "columnists" for hire to keep the debate alive so that no essential steps in solving this urgent issue that the entire planet earth faces are simply diverted away in shrouded jargons and tricky assaults of words.

There should be unified actions. Even Bjorn Lomborg, though his reputation is in tattered shape amongst the mainstream scientific communities, has some valid points that should be taken into consideration in any future "Kyoto" like initiatives.

Here are few excerpts from Lomborg's Washington Post article:

"I point this out not to challenge the reality of global warming or the fact that it's caused in large part by humans, but because the discussion about climate change has turned into a nasty dustup, with one side arguing that we're headed for catastrophe and the other maintaining that it's all a hoax. I say that neither is right. It's wrong to deny the obvious: The Earth is warming, and we're causing it. But that's not the whole story, and predictions of impending disaster just don't stack up.

We have to rediscover the middle ground, where we can have a sensible conversation. We shouldn't ignore climate change or the policies that could attack it. But we should be honest about the shortcomings and costs of those policies, as well as the benefits."

Engaging article. A few good points that needs further explanation and corroboration with real and authentic data. There were no linked references cited in Lomborg's article. But surely that will emerge in time.

Link:
Chill out - Stop Fighting over Global Warming


Its Creators Call Internet Outdated, Offer Remedies

Originally, inventors of modern Internet didn't design it for watching TV, using VOIPs, downloading and uploading tons of video and audio files, streaming video conferencing, etc. Here is a quote from one of the inventors, Larry Roberts who "oversaw" the creation of the foundation of Internet ARPAnet back in 1969: "We can no longer rely on last-generation technology, which has essentially remained unchanged for 40 years, to power Internet performance." More and more high demand of bandwidth have already started to create crunch on existing network infrastructure. "To tackle the problem, a slew of start-ups are producing gear and software to accelerate Internet traffic or to increase the network's capacity."

Read more from the following Wall Street Journal link:
Its Creators Call Internet Outdated, Offer Remedies
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119128309597345795.html

Patience, fairness and the human condition

Human being's "fairness" made them come up to "top" as an evolved beings, comparing to other of our close "relatives" like apes. Marc Hauser of Harvard University and his colleagues have published a research paper in Current Biology describing the degree of similarities and differences among various species including human beings. In their experiments they discovered that "Universally, people reject any share lower than 20%—apparently to punish the greed of the proposer. People do not act like Homo economicus. Instead, they are the arbiters of fairness." For many researchers in the field of human evolution, this sense of fairness is the "killer application":
"It is what allows large social groups to form. Without it, free-riders would ruin such groups, because playing fair would cease to have any value. Dr Jensen's previous experiments have shown that chimpanzees are willing to punish actual thieves. But his new data add weight to the theory that the more sophisticated idea of fair shares, which underpins collaborative behaviour, appeared in the hominid line only after the ancestors of the two species split from one another."
Link to The Economist article:
http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9898270

The Fakebook Generation

A few excerpts from this New York Times article for ruminations:
"I’ve always thought of Facebook as online community theater. In costumes we customize in a backstage makeup room — the Edit Profile page, where we can add a few Favorite Books or touch up our About Me section — we deliver our lines on the very public stage of friends’ walls or photo albums. And because every time we join a network, post a link or make another friend it’s immediately made visible to others via the News Feed, every Facebook act is a soliloquy to our anonymous audience.

My generation has long been bizarrely comfortable with being looked at, and as performers on the Facebook stage, we upload pictures of ourselves cooking dinner for our parents or doing keg stands at last night’s party; we are reckless with our personal information. But there is one area of privacy that we won’t surrender: the secrecy of how and whom we search.

For young people, Facebook is yet another form of escapism; we can turn our lives into stage dramas and relationships into comedy routines."
Link to complete article:
The Fakebook Generation

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

Craig Venter is not an unknown scientist, his privatized research on DNA in the 90s that was a parallel to publicly funded Human Genome Project using "Shotgun Sequencing", but his goal was to make that project named Celera for commercial purposes. In 2002 he got fired from his own founded company "Celera in early 2002 after it became clear that selling genome data would not become profitable and Venter resisted efforts by the company board to change the strategic direction of the company."

Todays' The Guardian has a news article on Craig Venter and his new ventures. Out of the laboratory chemicals he has created the first artificial life form on earth made from first synthetic chromosome. Within the next few weeks, Mr. Venter will announce more detail on this achievement, surely sparkling more charged debates on ethics and morality issues and possible lack of or inherent safeguard utilized or not for the first artificial life form that can be construed as only the beginning, only to be followed by more exotic artificially created life forms. The positive potential from his experiment can quite possibly change the gloomy predicted outcomes of our world, producing alternative energy from modified or synthetic microorganisms, affecting directly on global warming, but with these "positiveness" come other not so rosy possibilities, like never before contemplated bio-weapons that can be unimaginably more destructive than all present destructive weapons created by warring human beings.

Possibilities are limitless, as miseries are.

Link:
I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stories of Human Trafficking

An unnecessarily convoluted issue. No clear cut guidance how to deal with this growing problem where profits of billions of dollars are made by under and above ground thugs with sure collaboration of local and international politicians and suited businessmen. Read the following excerpt:
What is clear is that the conditions surrounding trafficked women and children include all the classic elements traditionally associated with slavery: abduction, false promises, transportation to a strange place, loss of freedom, abuse, violence, and deprivation. Those involved are isolated, controlled by various emotional and physical techniques, made dependent on drugs and alcohol, duped and terrorized into submission. Smuggling of migrants, with which trafficking is too often confused, is fundamentally different: smuggled people have consented to travel, and when they reach their destinations they expect to be free; the trafficked, even if they have initially consented, remain victims of continuing exploitation at the hands of their traffickers.
For many, Globalization along with less restricted trades have done"wonders", moving in and out of labor and capital from rich to poor nations and vice versa, though the movements of labor from poor nations to rich nations have remained to be restricted with stringent immigration laws. "Stringent restrictions and prohibitive immigration laws are effective in keeping out those seeking asylum or economic migration. It is within this subworld of failing economies, poverty, discrimination, corrupt governments, and new technology that trafficking flourishes. Not all of it involves sex: large numbers of people are trafficked each year—perhaps a third of the total—to meet demands for cheap, slavelike labor for agriculture, domestic service, and industry; but its most visible and pernicious manifestation is the sex industry.

About the traffickers themselves, less is known, not least because their victims, insufficiently protected by law, are often too afraid to give evidence, and because there are so many kinds of traffickers. But a pattern is emerging. At the top end of the scale are the large, extremely sophisticated criminal networks, usually running alongside those involved in drugs and arms, but distinct and cellular, often operating across several countries, transporting their victims as chattel over borders, from group to group, and profiting from corruption among police forces and border officials."

More startling facts are emerging:

Many of the traffickers are in fact women, and most of the girls trafficked out of Moldova today are reported to be duped, recruited, and groomed by women, some of them former prostitutes, who often accompany them reassuringly on the first leg of their journeys. Most unsettling is the fact that some of the "introducers" are boyfriends, "aunties," or even parents, willing, for a cut, or out of financial desperation, to traduce those they profess to love.

When I read the following paragraph from The New York Review of Books, it compels me to wonder, why is so much indifferences, and almost invisible public outcry and lack of effective actions on these real terrors imposed on our global society's weakest of the weak, the vulnerable, who desperately seek our "civilizations" gentle but firm intervention? I don't have the concrete answer to this, like many, only the vaguest patterns of this world's rampant exploitative farce becomes slightly more clearer to some who wishes to look at it rather than averting eyes and ears from truth of inconveniences:

According to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, children, sold by destitute parents or abducted by criminal syndicates, are currently being trafficked from Vietnam to Thailand, from Burma to the Pacific Rim countries, and from Nepal to India, where, in the brothels of Mumbai, the fair-skinned girls of Nepal are particularly prized. Some are no more than eight years old.

Undoubtedly there are groups of activists who are working tirelessly against this abomination of our "humaneness", but the disparity between the rhetoric of the anti-traffickers and "the willingness either to protect and assist the trafficked or to catch and prosecute the traffickers, who, even if caught, are seldom successfully prosecuted" is staggering to the least. Even "protection tends to be offered only when victims agree to assist in prosecuting their traffickers, something that many women, fearing reprisals and repercussions, are afraid to do."

Michael Korzinski who is a clinical doctor in London's the Helen Bamber Foundation articulates it very well: "In the eyes of the law, trafficking is all about criminality and complicity. There is a total lack of understanding of the sheer brutality it involves. For us, trafficking is another form of torture. It is as sophisticated as state-sponsored torture, except that it is happening not in a brutal repressive country, but in a block of flats in Turin or a leafy suburb of Vermont."

Link to The New York Review of Books Article:

Women and Children for Sale

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Who'll Win the Booker?

This is the time of year when the murmur and rumors begin. Who will win the Booker? The coveted prize that means millions of copies of sales for the winner, even the short-listed books get hefty boosts from this literary world's "prestigious" award. Last year it was Anita Desai's exquisite The Inheritance of Loss grabbed it, many years ago, it seems, Yann Martel won for his splendid Life of Pi. Margaret Atwood had won it for her unforgettable Blind Assassin, a story to remember like her another classic Oryx and Crake published a few years later. Ian McEwan got it not for "Atonement", arguably his best work of fiction, but he had won for Amsterdam, though in my humble opinion both Saturday and Atonement were finer novels. Alice Munro had never won it since her arena is in short stories. John Banville had won it for his The Sea though for many his "Shroud" was his best to this date. No one talks about Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things anymore that won the heart and soul of readers so many years ago. Perhaps she has devoted her literary talents in expanding the meaning of Algebra of Infinite Injustice and other social causes that require more urgent attentions, but her fans do surely miss a great writer who has pretty much disappeared from the literary scene it seems.

Read the following article published in The Wall Street Journal, though many of its "judgments" on current short-listed Booker books I do not agree with.

Link:
Who'll Win the Booker?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Burma: UN envoy meets top general as regime blames foreigners for violence |

Read the excerpt below:
"The reports follow claims from a former intelligence officer in Burma's ruling junta that thousands of protesters have been killed and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

Mr Win said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men."

Link:
Burma: UN envoy meets top general as regime blames foreigners for violence

What Makes a Monk Mad

Among the many recent articles written about the chaotic turbulences in Burma in the recent days, the article published in The New York Times titled "What Makes a Monk Mad" has clearly observed the prior symbiotic relationship between the Buddhist Monks, the upholder of moral authority, and the military Juntas, the ruler of the land by muzzled guns. Now that relationship is in tattered shape, what will happen in Burma in near future? Read the following article for an eloquent observation and analysis.

Link:
What Makes a Monk Mad

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fair Trade in Bloom

Fair trade labeling is catching the trend like organic food. There is a difference, organic food labeling depends on "how the food is cultivated" and fair trade food labeling "is primarily concerned with the condition of the farmer and his laborers."

Here is one excerpt from The New York Times about Fair Trade definition:
The International Fair Trade Association, an umbrella group of organizations in more than 70 countries, defines fair trade as reflecting “concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers” and does “not maximize profit at their expense.”
Critics of Fair Trade says that "fair trade coffee is as exploitive as the conventional kind, especially in countries that produce the highest-quality beans — like Colombia, Ethiopia and Guatemala. Fair trade farmers there are barely paid more than their counterparts in Brazil, though their crops become gourmet brands, selling for a hefty markup, said Geoff Watts, vice president for coffee at Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, a coffee importer." However, there are exceptions, like in Brazil where the marginalization of small producers is less pronounced.

The motto of Fair Trade labeling is noble indeed, and it would be more uplifting if both Fair Trade and Organic Food labeling can be merged in more effective synchronization that could bring positive outcome to farmers, consumers and world's chemical based ruined farmlands.

Link:
Fair Trade in Bloom

The Blessings of Dirty Work

Human beings boast its achievements freeing most of our species from doing the "dirty work", the muddy work of producing foods from toiled soil is left for 2 percent of world population. Are human beings truly able to get away from these "dirty work"? Barbara Kingsolver, the prolific writer that I have the deepest admiration for, writes the following in her The Washington Post article:
"Industrial farming -- however destructive to the land and our nutrition -- has held out as its main selling point the allure of freedom: Two percent of the population would be able to feed everyone. The rest could do as we pleased. Shiva sees straight through that promise. "Most of those who have moved off of farms are still working in the industry of creating food and bringing it to consumers: as cashiers, truck drivers, even the oil-rig workers who generate the fuels to run the trucks. Those jobs are all necessary to a travel-dependent, highly mechanized food system. And many of those jobs are menial, life-taking work, instead of the life-giving work of farming on the land. The analyses we have done show that no matter what, whether the system is highly technological or much more simple, about 50 to 60 percent of a population has to be involved in the work of feeding that population. Industrial agriculture did not 'save' anyone from that work, it only shifted people into other forms of food service.""
Barbara Kingsolver talks with Vandana Shiva, the elegant and respected scientist based in India, and explores the following neglected issue in modern agriculture: "Traditional farming retains soil structure, but intensive modern agriculture does not: Since the 1970s, while global grain production has tripled, an estimated 30 percent of the world's farmland has become too damaged to use. Also shrinking are the fossil fuel reserves for a system that requires petroleum to run the farm machines, serve as the chemical base of fertilizers, fuel the milling and processing plants and drive the food to widely dispersed consumers. Shiva puts it this way: "The new modified crops brought to us by the Green Revolution were described as 'green oil of the future.' Ironically, that has turned out to be correct in a way, as the Green Revolution makes a renewable resource -- food -- into a nonrenewable one, just like petroleum."

Chemical based farming has negative impact on soil, damaging the farmlands from small village in India to a Nebraskan farmland. Sustaining the costs of chemicals to retain and improve the damaged soil had and have ruined many farmers everywhere, which has been so severe in some parts of India that 150,000 farmers have committed suicide "often by drinking pesticide, to underscore the point -- after being bankrupted by costly chemicals in a cycle of debt created by ties to corporate agriculture. Centralized food production requires constant inputs -- fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation -- that in some settings are impossible to sustain, and chemical-based farming virtually always damages the soil over time, whether in India or Nebraska."

Alternatives to ruining chemical based agriculture is possible, Vandana Shiva and many like her scientists and conscious activists have proven this time and time again. Ms. Shiva's "devoted team has built the soil with compost and careful crop rotation to its present lushness. After a tour through the fields, we took off our shoes to enter the seed bank room, a precious library of germ plasm collected in labeled jars and baskets: oilseeds, mustard greens, wheats and barleys, 380 varieties of rice. Other farmers throughout the country are building different seed banks of locally appropriate varieties, all replanted in the fields each year as a living catalogue. "This is the basis of Indian farmers' sovereignty," Shiva said. "Our traditional crops."

Perhaps the problem lies in human beings' misplaced pride freeing themselves from "dirty" and "muddy" lands, while in reality most of our species is tied to agriculture from one form or another, only our perception has changed. The greed for making more profits by tying the traditional farmers with land ruining chemicals which is not sustainable is a sure cause and possibly debilitating future for food production may not be an impossibility. Human beings, the proud upright animals, so jovial in their uplifting feelings of not "dirtying" hands and legs by being away from muds and seedlings, forgetting so conveniently our species' survival depending on this very basic and elemental necessity of life and our boasted civilization.

Link to Barbara Kingsolver's must read article:
The Blessings of Dirty Work

Scientists Invent 30 Year Continuous Power Laptop Battery

"Your next laptop could have a continuous power battery that lasts for 30 years without a single recharge thanks to work being funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The breakthrough betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source. As the radioactive material decays it emits beta particles that transform into electric power capable of fueling an electrical device like a laptop for years."
To good to be true? According to this article here are more about this super-duper battery:
The reason the battery lasts so long is that neutron beta-decay into protons is the world's most concentrated source of electricity, truly demonstrating Einstein’s theory E=MC2.

The best part about these cells are when they eventually run out of power they are totally inert and non-toxic, so environmentalists need not fear these high tech scientific wonder batteries. If all goes well plans are for these cells to reach store shelves in about 2 to 3 years.

"Totally inert and non-toxic", that would be a really achievement if it is indeed true! Will we find it out in 2 to 3 years? But, remember, we need to wait 30 years to find out its "totally inert and non-toxic" properties as an "totally inert" status. That's a long time for human memory, however, these are good marketing words for increased profitability.

Link:
Scientists Invent 30 Year Continuous Power Laptop Battery

Languages Die, but Not Their Last Words

"New research, reported yesterday, has found the five regions where languages are disappearing most rapidly: northern Australia, central South America, North America’s upper Pacific coastal zone, eastern Siberia, and Oklahoma and the southwestern United States. All have indigenous people speaking diverse languages, in falling numbers.

Many of the 113 languages in the region from the Andes Mountains into the Amazon basin are poorly known and are giving way to Spanish or Portuguese, or in a few cases, a more dominant indigenous language. In this area, for example, a group known as the Kallawaya use Spanish or Quechua in daily life, but also have a secret tongue mainly for preserving knowledge of medicinal plants, some previously unknown to science.

“How and why this language has survived for more than 400 years, while being spoken by very few, is a mystery,” Dr. Harrison said in a news release.

83 languages with “global” influence are spoken and written by 80 percent of the world population. Most of the others face extinction at a rate, the researchers said, that exceeds that of birds, mammals, fish and plants."

Link to Article:
Languages Die, but Not Their Last Words

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ethanol, schmethanol

Ethanol is the "fashion talk" of energy industries. Government subsidies, advertisements of "benevolent" ethanol can be heard from pundits of all sorts, but is ethanol really that "green" as alternative fuel as it is purported to be? A century ago Henry Ford rejected it as a fuel choice. Why? Here is the reason:
"And when Henry Ford was experimenting with car engines a century ago, he tried ethanol out as a fuel. But he rejected it—and for good reason. The amount of heat you get from burning a litre of ethanol is a third less than that from a litre of petrol. What is more, it absorbs water from the atmosphere. Unless it is mixed with some other fuel, such as petrol, the result is corrosion that can wreck an engine's seals in a couple of years."
If ethanol is so "ineffective", then why is there so much "talks" about it, and so much "excitements" about ethanol?
"the real reason ethanol has become the preferred green substitute for petrol is that people know how to make it—that, and the subsidies now available to America's maize farmers to produce the necessary feedstock."
Other scientists, technologists know the "true costs" of ethanol as alternative fuel, so there are a few "real alternatives" perhaps in the making. Using the wonder of biotechnology, harnessing the power of enzymes and micro-organisms, even "designing" natural evolutionary processes in selecting the ultimate survivors, "enzymes that can perform chemical transformations unknown in nature", design of biopetrol is stirring interests due to its potential of having optimal mixtures of properties as motor fuel.

Other scientists are taking different approaches, they using synthetic biology that turns living organisms into chemical reactors "reactors by assembling novel biochemical pathways within them. Dr Keasling and his colleagues scour the world for suitable enzymes, tweak them to make them work better, then sew the genes for the tweaked enzymes into a bacterium that thus turns out the desired product. That was how they produced artemisinin, which is also an isoprenoid.

Isoprenoids have the advantage that, like alcohols, they are part of the natural biochemistry of many organisms. Enzymes to handle them are thus easy to come by. They have the additional advantage that some are pure hydrocarbons, like petrol. With a little judicious searching, Amyris thinks it has come up with isoprenoids that have the right characteristics to substitute for petrol."

Even Craig Venter, the earlier pioneer in private human-genome project, is in the hunt for alternative energy. Though, like other venture capitalists he is for obvious reasons is reluctant to reveal his trade secret, but the rumors has it that he is shifting his strategies from hydrogen to liquid fuels.

The writer in The Economists surmises it correctly. Political backing for ethanol should be curbed down to give biofuels, that may prove to be many times more effective as "greener" alternative energy source than ethanol ever dream to achieve. The "political rush to back ethanol, just because it is green and people have heard of it, is a mistake."

Link to the The Economist article:

Advanced Biofuels - Ethanol, schmethanol

Another article on the same subject was published in National Geographic a few weeks ago. Here is the link to that article: Green Dreams.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The politics behind Prashant's Indian Idol win

Indian Idol was a good show this year, where the winner was Prashant Tamang whose win was no one could foresee from the beginning. All the "top contestants", some of them, especially Puja and Emon, were undoubtedly better singers than Prashant or the runner up Amit Paul, but in the end it all came down to "votes" where multiple votes by sms were allowed. Even in music where violence have no place, but the "fans" in Prashant's hometown took the streets protesting derogatory remarks made by a radio host against him. Here is an excerpt from Zee News:

He said he had heard that firing had taken place, but no senior police official was available to confirm it.

The trouble erupted when a 2000-strong procession of fans of Indian idol Prasanth Tamang were marching in a procession to the SDO`s office to submit a memorandum in protest against the derogatory comments by a FM radio jockey in Delhi against Tamang, the police said.

While the processionists were passing through hospital road an ambulance with a patient inside tried to drive into the Siliguri Zilla hospital located there, the sources said.

This was resisted by the processionists and an altercation took place with those inside the ambulance. The processionists then allegedly assaulted all inside the ambulance, including the patient.

Local people protested, which infuriated the fans further and they began vandalising shops in the area.

The local people then chased them into the nearby court compound and began throwing stones and torched cars, the sources said.
Hindustan Times published a story last week where describing Prashant's win and its impact on "political history" between Nepal and India that is more than a century old is a must read. Here is the link to this article: Click here. A few excerpts from this article is given below:

for many Nepalese, Darjeeling is still part of Nepal.

In the 19th century, Darjeeling and other parts of Sikkim had been annexed by Nepal. However, as the British East India Company tried to open trade routes to Tibet via Sikkim, Nepal waged war against the Company and lost.

As a result, it was forced to sign the Sugauli Treaty and withdraw from all the territory it had occupied in Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal and much of the Terai.

Though the British found it difficult to govern the Terai and restored some of it to Nepal, Darjeeling, Kumaon and Garhwal remained part of British India.

When India obtained independence in 1947, Nepal hoped to get back its wrested land but did not.

Since then, the dream of achieving a "Greater Nepal" some day in the future with the lost area still remains in the mind of the Nepalese.

Royalists had been demanding a Greater Nepal and the Maoists, the opponents of the royalists, want it as well, demanding that the Sugauli Treaty be scrapped.

There has been no formal treaty between Nepal and India after 1947, even after Sikkim's merger with India in 1975, which Nepal regards as the annexation of Sikkim.

Nepal still does not formally recognise Sikkim's "annexation", nor has India sought recognition from Nepal.

Therefore Nepalis still regard Darjeeling as a part of Nepal that should be restored and Prashant Tamang is considered a Nepalese.